A Comparision Of Tennyson's And Eliot's Dealing With Self Crisis In Poetry

1461 words - 6 pages

Both Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” and T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” involve the narrator’s dealing with a self crisis, characterized by a state of despair at their current situation. Ulysses is not content with his return to kingship after the adventures of The Odyssey and Prufrock is self-deprecating, hating himself for his indecision and his perceived lack of worth. Yet while Ulysses resolves to take action to regain his former days of glory and adventure, Prufrock is so psychologically paralyzed that near the end of the poem he questions whether he “dare to eat a peach.”
In “Ulysses” the first two stanzas seem to be an interior monologue, with Ulysses going over his current situation and making the case. There are no references to other parties it is all describing his situation with lines such as “I have become a name;” (11). In the third stanza there is a possible switch in narration, as Ulysses says “This is my son, my own Telemachus,” as if he is presenting Telemachus to another person, though it is still possible he is looking at Telemachus and thinking or saying this to himself. In the final stanza there is a definite shift in narration; Ulysses is now entreating his sailors to come on a last adventure with him. He calls upon them: “My Mariners,/ Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me—.” He admits “you and I are old” before repeating his plea of “Come my friends” (56).
“The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” uses interior monologue, however Eliot presents his narrator’s thoughts through stream of consciousness, which allows the reader direct access to Prufrock’s thought processes. Each stanza is somewhat disjointed, jumping from biblical allusions and imaginary landscapes to social banter and banal descriptions, such as the sing-songy “I grow old, I grow old/ I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled” (121). Some parts of the song Prufrock seem to address another party, such as the first line “Let us go then you and I” (1), but we cannot know these conversations actually occurred, as the poem is connected not by a progression of events, but by Prufrock’s chain of thought. These conversations may have happened previously or be things he has considered saying but never has, such as the “overwhelming question” (10) he does not ask. At some points it seems there is no interlocutor, such as lines 73 to 74 where Prufrock observes “I should have been a pair of ragged claws/ Scuttling across the floors of silent seas” (73-74), where Prufrock is seemingly making an observation to himself. The last line of the poem addresses the audience with a claim that we have lingered in the chambers of the sea” (129). Prufrock’s first attempt at solidarity with his audience, most likely because he does not want to be alone in his self-pitying hell. The difference in narration reflects the two narrators’ differing resolutions to their crises. While Ulysses outlines his problem in monologue, then entreats his...

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